Monthly Archives: March 2009


James Campbell’s interview appeared in the Guardian, March 29: 

At home in the dark

If Dick Cheney had been obsessed by the poetry of John Ashbery, there would be a lot of people alive today who are now dead'

Interview by James Campbell

As a child living on New York's Upper East Side in the early 1950s, Wallace Shawn mounted puppet shows for the entertainment of parents and friends. In a recent memoir of family life, Wallace's brother Allen described these early trespasses on the theatrical world as "shows that explored the dark underbelly of life and tore the mask away from genteel society". Wallace Shawn is tickled at being reminded of them, and nods to the suggestion that he has been exploring that side of things in plays ever since. "One of the puppet shows was about the conflicts in the Congo, another was about the private life of Wittgenstein. We had an adaptation of Paradise Lost that lasted for four hours. I was ambitious from a young age."


After the West Side Story review, on the New Yorker Web site, is Lahr's review of Reza's play:

A rumble of an altogether different kind takes place in the French playwright Yasmina Reza’s dark and hilarious farce “God of Carnage” (elegantly directed by Matthew Warchus, at the Bernard B. Jacobs), which in Christopher Hampton’s excellent translation has been relocated from Paris to the comfortable upper-middle-class environs of Cobble Hill, Brooklyn. In a handsomely minimal haute-bourgeois apartment (designed by Mark Thompson), a turf war takes place over a blood-red carpet, a coffee table chockablock with art books, and two elegant glass vases overflowing with white tulips. Instead of the Jets and the Sharks, the Novaks (Marcia Gay Harden and James Gandolfini) and the Raleighs (Hope Davis and Jeff Daniels) face off over the loutish playground behavior of their kids. Michael and Veronica Novak’s aggrieved eleven-year-old son Henry has had two teeth knocked out by Alan and Annette Raleigh’s son, Benjamin. “Madame, our son is a savage,” Alan, a cell-phone-addicted model of glib Gallic cynicism, explains. “To hope for any kind of spontaneous repentance would be fanciful.” Where the upper classes of the turn of the last century fought with property, these vindictive twenty-first-century Homo sapiens fight with principle. “I don’t see the point of existence without some kind of moral conception of the world,” Veronica, who is publishing a book on Darfur, says. She believes, she adds, “in the soothing powers of culture.” In ninety minutes of sustained mayhem, however, Reza wipes the masks of sang-froid off her whole monstrous regiment and demonstrates just how thin a line lies between civility and barbarity


The following article by Pat Jordon on Neil LaBute was published in the New York Times Magazine, March 25, 2009:


Neil LaBute Has a Thing About Beauty



Theatergoers will have barely settled into their seats at “Reasons to Be Pretty,” which makes its Broadway debut this week at the Lyceum, before they will be jolted by the profanity-laced rant of a young woman directed at her passive boyfriend all because he told a friend she had a “regular” face. The entire play hinges on this seemingly innocuous comment, which is why the billboard outside the Lyceum describes it as “a love story about the impossibility of love” written by “Neil LaBute, playwright and provocateur.” LaBute’s plays are, in fact, so provocative that some past audience members have walked out midplay or screamed out “kill the playwright” or slapped an actor’s face after a performance. And that makes a side of LaBute happy. “It’s part of my makeup,” he says, “to ruin a perfectly good day for people.”



(Neil LaBute’s dramatic work is included in One on One:  The Best Women’s Monologues for the 21st Century; One on One:  The Best Men’s Monologues for the 21st Century; and the upcoming Duo!:  The Best Plays for Two for the 21st Century (due in August)—all from Applause Theatre and Cinema Books.)



Each week the expert staff of the renowned Drama Book Shop in Manhattan, just seconds away from Broadway, recommends one book or play that's new, interesting, or just flat-out fantastic. Picking the best of published work, they help keep us up to date and aware of the little known, broadening our horizons, and encouraging dialogue. Order a play from The Drama Book Shop, read it, and e-mail them with your thoughts–they'd love to hear from you:


The Complete Plays of John Millington Synge

by John Millington Synge

This collection of so-called peasant plays by J. M. Synge offers the reader a language that is sweeter than any nut. Writing in the tongue of the Irish peasant, Synge offers us poetry that, when spoken, will tantalize each and every palate.

In Riders To The Sea a one-act written in 1904 and possibly one of the finest tragedies ever produced, we deal with an issue all too common to the West of Ireland, loss of life at sea. A mother and her two daughters struggle to save their brother from the same fate which has claimed the lives of three generations of strong men.

Synge’s masterpiece The Playboy of the Western World was written in 1907. When first presented by the Abbey players it sparked riots among Irish patriots who were very sensitive to its bitter humor. The story tells of Christopher Mahon, a young man from the south, who flees from home after killing his dad. 'Christy,' as he’s called, enjoys new found celebrity status as the man who killed his father among the women of the town — until an unexpected visitor arrives, throwing the whole thing up in the air.

Synge’s bitter humor was also to be heard in The Well of the Saints and In the Shadow of the Glen, the latter being a one-act comedy written in 1903. His later work The Tinkers Wedding was never produced for fear of further riots while Deirdre of the Sorrows remained unfinished due to the untimely death of the author at the age of only thirty eight.

Scenes/Monologues: Great material for older actresses.

Recommended by: Muiris.


The Drama Book Shop, Inc.
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This volume includes the complete texts of all the plays by J. M. Synge. Produced at the Abbey Theater which Synge founded. Represents one of the major dramatic achievements of the 20th century.

Product Details

Publisher : Vintage Books USA
Published : 08/01/1960
Format : Mass Market Paperbound , pages 272
ISBN-10 : 039470178X
ISBN-13 : 9780394701783


The following interview appeared in the Village Voice, March 24, 2009:

Playwright Christopher Durang Braves a Voice Inquisition

By James Hannaham

"I come from an alcoholic family," says playwright Christopher Durang. He mentions this casually, throwing it away like a common expression, as if his parents emigrated from Alcoholia and he grew up speaking Alcoholish at home. As if the darkly funny image it conjures—the Cleavers stumbling around a kitchen shit-faced, perhaps—were normal . . .,com_shows/task,view/Itemid,141/id,961


Christopher Durang's work can be found in One on One:  The Best Women's Monologues for the 21st Century and Duo!: The Best Scenes for Two for the 21st Century (Aug, '09)–both from Applause Theatre and Cinema Books.  



Ben Brantley’s review of Richard Maxwell’s People Without History appeared in the NY Times March 24:

Swimming Across the Rough Sea of History

Sing the news, o balladeers. Richard Maxwell has put on chain mail again, boldly returning to the 15th-century battlefield where once he lay trounced and bleeding. Now his banner, proud and tattered, flies there under the name of “People Without History,” his new play at the Performing Garage in SoHo. A land that no one expected Mr. Maxwell to claim is his . . .

Director: Brian Mendes


Writer: Richard Maxwell




Alex Delinois


Bob Feldman


Jim Fletcher


Tom King


Rafael Sánchez


Pete Simpson


Tory Vazquez


Designer: Lara Furniss


Technical Director: Joe Silovsky


Company Manager: Nicholas Elliott


13 shows only. Thursday through Sunday, March 19th – April 5th, with an additional performance on Monday, March 30th.


Shows begin at 8:00 pm at The Performing Garage, 33 Wooster St, between Grand and Broome.

The closest subway stops are the Canal St stops of the 1, A, C, E, N, & R lines.


Tickets are $20 each.


If you would like to reserve tickets, please respond to with your name and phone number, performance date and number of tickets, or leave a message at 212 479 0808. Please note that your reservation is not confirmed until we contact you. You may also purchase tickets directly from our website with a credit card (; $2 / ticket handling fee).


We would love to see you there!


The New York City Players


Co-produced with Dublin's Project Arts Centre:


Publicity: Heidi Riegler RIEGLER MEDIA | MARKETING | NYC


Photo: Ashley Green


(Richard Maxwell’s work is included in DUO!  The Best Scenes for Two for the 21st Century from Applause Theatre & Cinema Books, due out in June ‘09.)



The following review of Sam Shepard’s new play The Ages of the Moon appeared in the Irish Independent, March 5:

Shepard's Charm Shines Through

The Ages Of The Moon
Peacock Theatre, Dublin

By John McKeown

The last Sam Shepard play commissioned by the Abbey featured Stephen Rea in a hole with a dead horse.

In this one, he's still in a hole, but he has Sean McGinley for company.

Byron (McGinley) has crossed several western states by Greyhound bus to be with his old friend Ames (Rea), who's having an emotional crisis brought on after busting up with his woman. They sit on Ames' porch, drink bourbon and wait for a total eclipse of the moon, due at 5am.

The great charm of Shepard's writing is its allusiveness and delicacy in spare, man-eat-man situations.

Byron and Ames work through their problems with each other with crude language, explosions of temper, physical violence and a shotgun; providing some comic moments. But it's the more reflective talk in between that gradually builds up the play's poetic weight . . .



Shpiel! Shpiel! Shpiel!

March 19, 2009

By Gwen Orel


Folksbiene's work has been steadily growing stronger and stronger. With Shpiel! Shpiel! Shpiel!, the company grows in ambition as well, presenting three new plays by Murray Schisgal (Broadway's Luv, All Over Town, and Twice Around the Park, and the film Tootsie) in their Yiddish premieres (translated by Moishe Rosenfeld), with English and Russian supertitles. The three directors are Tony Award winner Gene Saks (Mame, Same Time, Next Year, and numerous Neil Simon hits), noted actor Bob Dishy (Flora, the Red Menace, Sly Fox, and Grownups on Broadway and the York's recent Enter Laughing: The Musical), and Folksbiene associate artistic director Motl Didner. Lisa Fishman expertly sings and plays the guitar before each play. At three hours, the evening is too long; each play needs tightening. But there are laughs and a few tears, and you could do worse . . .


March 15th – April 5th

Written By: Murray Schisgal
(Tony and Oscar Nominated writer of Tootsie, Luv)

Three plays tracing the America-Jewish experience across

 three generations.

Pushcart Peddlers:
Directed by Motl Didner
Michael L. Harris
Dani Marcus
Stuart Marshall

The Man Who Couldn’t Stop Crying:
Directed by Gene Saks
Suzanne Toren
I.W. (“Itzy”) Firestone

74 Georgia Avenue:
Directed by Bob Dishy
Harry Peerce
Tony Perry

Set Design by Vicki Davis
Costume Design by Gail Cooper-Hecht
Lighting Design by Russel Phillip Drapkin
Sound Design by Don Jacobs

Welcome to The National Yiddish Theatre

Orchestra $55, Balcony $45,
Students $25
or Purchase Tickets: 1-800-595-4849
Group Sales- 212-213-2120 x204

Previews Begin March 15th


2:00pm & 8:00pm


2:00pm & 8:00pm




2:00pm & 6:00pm


Sunday March 22 and Sunday March 29
Post Show Discussion

Please join us for this special series where you get an in-depth look at what goes on behind the scenes as well as have an up-close conversation with the Artists. Murray Schisgal (Tony and Oscar Nominated author or TOOTSIE, LUV, and others) and Bob Dishy will be our guests. This talk back will take place immediately following the 6pm show.

FOR BOX OFFICE SALES – 800-595-4849

To become a subscribing member and reserve your tickets please email or call our Membership Services Department!

Email: or Call 212-213-2120 x 208

For Group Sales for all National Yiddish Theatre Mainstage Shows,
outreach & education, and Special programs please contact:
Itzy Firestone 212-213-2120 x 204
or email:

Doesn't matter if you don't speak Yiddish (and you don't have to be Jewish, either!) — there are "supertitles" above the stage.

 (Murray Schisgal’s work in included in One On One:  The Best Women’s Monologues for the 21st Century and the August release Duo!: The Best Scenes for Two for the 21st Century—both from Applause Theatre and Cinema Books.

Stuart Marshall has been a friend of the Stage Voices blog since its start.)


David Cromer blurs the line between reality and theater in his pickup interpretation of Thornton Wilder’s 1938 Pulitzer prize-winning play, Our Town. In a piece traditionally associated with scenic minimalism, this version is especially utilitarian—its un-unified design is about as distinguished as the last time you saw this play done by the local high school (which you might have been involved with yourself). This is not to say that Wilder was not in revolt against the theatre of his time—he was.  "I felt that something had gone wrong. . . . I began to feel that the theatre was not only inadequate, it was evasive." Now, accomplice to the playwright, Cromer won’t let anyone hide—least of all himself. He begins the show, in person, entering with a cell phone, seemingly to remind us to turn ours off. Instead, he stays throughout as the Stage Manager, first casting us into a barrage of fast-paced pantomimed daily life–making breakfast, rushing to school, no time for formalities. In a flurry of plaid shirts, skiing vests, and dungarees, Grover’s Corners, New Hampshire, is awake. Not presented as “a distinct aspect of American sentiment—a myth of our folklore . . . an idyllic symbol,” this reading of the text is not the one Harold Clurman described after seeing Jose Quintero’s 1959 production at Circle in the Square.  It couldn’t be: Today, a white, blue-collar, Republican town wouldn’t be thought of as a metaphor for America (about as close a locale as we could get by a living playwright, although not in terms of political belief, might be something in the work of A.R. Gurney, who also has a penchant for minimal sets; he, additionally, speaks admiringly of Our Town in his play Indian Blood). Move uptown to see August: Osage County and you’ll get a different take on how an older generation of white, blue-collar country folk can be evinced by a playwright. Unlike that play’s generational warfare, Wilder doesn’t demarcate age the way that Tracy Letts or, for the media, Tom Brokaw do—although Barbara does “become” Violet in Osage, Emily and George in Our Town don’t assume that their lives are and will be all that different from those of their parents.        

Clurman noted that Wilder “spins a frail design of utmost brevity and simplicity to signify his message . . . with short unemphatic scenes.” Stagings of Our Town, however, do not typically as far as I know, treat the text with an eye toward physicalizing its message–and form–in such an organic way.  That’s why this production seems so new, maybe a little brutalist, and why Cromer keeps us guessing, despite the familiarity of the material. Why can’t he get period furniture (actually two of the chairs used when I saw the production broke)?  Why are the characters dressed in modern rust-belt attire?  Why are the props cavalierly found objects? Why can’t the boy-girl scenes be slowed down a tad to recall sentiment?  Why are the house lights on?  My answer is that Cromer wants to make us no less comfortable than the characters he is following. He does not mean this to be an updating of Our Town to be set in 2009, but what we see and find on stage are what we see and find in the swirl and thrashing of universal life—because in accordance with Wilder’s conclusion, even in the theatre, we must also become blind to the beauty of living. Wilder tells us, after all, “Do any human beings ever realize life while they live it?”  Where Wilder asks us to get involved with local issues, history, and demographics, Cromer puts us on the spot to become participants and extras.  Then in the last act, cast becomes audience.       

When thankfully, blessedly, organically, finally, the house lights are lowered in Act III, we, too, are among the dead.  Like the actors—whose agility and speed have heretofore been mesmerizing–we are staring with one focus; the self-consciousness of being exposed to the arena is gone.  We no longer are being asked to live in the present moment, but, familiarly, are allowed to think, reflect, and tie the disparate strands of this production together.  Amazingly, for the first time, just like Emily, we see the beauty of a small New England town just the way we like it, as recalled from  a high school memory. The characters that are still alive, however, cannot—they just see the busy passing of traffic as we have during the first two acts.  Earlier, in Act II on the day of his son's wedding, Frank Gibbs tells of his fear that he wouldn’t have anything to talk about at dinner with his wife once married.  It’s somehow interesting to note that Orson Welles, who knew Wilder–and would produce a radio version of Our Town—would include a scene in Citizen Kane (1941) of a husband and wife at the dinner table who are unable to talk to each other, continuing, in Wilder’s vein, to break the spell of sentimental Americana. Like them, Cromer's art is transparency.

(C) 2009 by Bob Shuman

OUR TOWN at the Barrow Street Theatre (27 Barrow Street, NY, NY 10014:

Starring: Elizabeth Audley, Jeremy Beiler, Robert Beitzel, Kati Brazda, David Cromer, George Demas, Donna Jay Fulks, Jennifer Grace, Wilbur Edwin Henry, Adam Hinkle, Dana Elizabeth Jacks, Ronete Levenson, Ken Marks, Jonathan Mastro, James McMenamin, Seamus Mulcahy, Lori Myers, Kathleen Peirce, Keith Perry, Jay Russell, Mark Shock, Jeff Still, Jason Yachanin

Scenic Design & Properties: Michele Spadaro / Costume Design: Alison Siple / Lighting Design: Heather Gilbert / Original Music and Music Direction: Jonathan Mastro/Casting: Pat McCorkle, CSA/Joe Lopick
Production Manager: B.D. White / Production Stage Manager: Richard A. Hodge / Assistant Stage Manager: Kate McDoniel / Associate Producers: Patrick Daly, Mark Biales / Assistant Director: Michael Page
Press Representative: O&M Co. / General Management: Two Step Productions / Advertising: Eliran Murphy Group

"BEST OF 2008"
"David Cromer's brilliantly revisionist and astounding new production of Our Town is his masterwork to date. In the jaw-dropping third act I found myself speaking the words 'Oh, my God' to no one. Cancel whatever you're doing tonight and go and see this show."
– Chris Jones, The Chicago Tribune

"BEST OF 2008"
"There is a wondrous simplicity and nakedness about this production as it spins a blazingly intense yet sharply satiric story of two small-town, middle-class American families whose destinies become intertwined. This production should travel the globe."
– Hedy Weiss, Chicago Sun-Times

"BEST OF 2008"
– Time Out Chicago

Directed by DAVID CROMER


Tues – Fri @ 7:30pm
Sat 2:30pm & 7:30pm
Sun 2:30pm & 7:30pm

Visit for more information.



Autopsy: Richardson died from bleeding in brain

By HILLEL ITALIE Associated Press Writer | Mar 19, 2009

Natasha Richardson died from bleeding in her skull caused by the fall she took on a ski slope, an autopsy found Thursday.

The medical examiner ruled her death an accident, and doctors said she might have survived had she received immediate treatment. However, nearly four hours elapsed between her lethal fall at her admission to a hospital . . .



Autopsy on Natasha Richardson under way in NYC

The New York City medical examiner's office was conducting an autopy Thursday on Natasha Richardson, the Tony Award-winning actress who died after falling on a ski slope.

The medical examiner's office said results will be available later Thursday.

The 45-year-old actress reportedly suffered a head injury after a fall during a private lesson Monday at a resort in Quebec. Richardson was seemingly fine after she fell, but about an hour later, she complained that she didn't feel well. She was hospitalized Tuesday in Montreal and later flown to a hospital in New York, where she died.